Records Management for Student Organizations: Recordkeeping

How to manage your group's records, what to keep and to discard, and how to donate materials to the University Archives

Best Practices for Recordkeeping

Document the activities of your group
  • Keep minutes of meetings and membership rosters.
  • Save copies of publications, filers, and other promotional materials.
  • Take photographs of members, meetings, and events. Don't rely on third-party applications like Facebook group pages to store your photographs and membership information. For ideas on how to preserve your own photographs, see "Storage & Access."
  • Label your materials with full names, dates, and descriptions of events or circumstances.
  • Keep your records together in one central place. Assign a member to be secretary or historian every year and have them pass information to a successor annually. 
  • Develop a straightforward filing system that works for your organization. There's no one best way to do this.
When evaluating which records to keep, it is important to consider the following questions:
  • Does this record reflect your organization’s work and role within the Columbia community?
  • Would this record be of use or interest to future organization members, students or researchers?
If the answer is YES to any of these questions, then you should keep it.
The following list is a sampling of the types of records which typically hold enduring or historical value:
  • founding documents, constitutions, by-laws, mission statements
  • meeting minutes, membership lists and registers
  • correspondence, memos, announcements
  • publications produced by your organization, such as newsletters and member handbooks
  • event flyers, posters and promotional materials
  • organizational histories, self-studies and reports
  • scrapbooks and photographs of the group, members, meetings, and events
  • audio-visual recordings of group events
  • small artifacts (buttons, t-shirts, pins)
Records of routine transactions and/or everyday logistics do not need to be preserved:
  • receipts, bank statements and canceled checks (most routine financial records)
  • drafts, reminders, to-do lists
  • duplicate copies of publications (the University Archives typically keeps 2 to 3 copies of each publication)
  • general University publications and memos 
  • blank forms, stationery
  • large artifacts like trophies or award plaques (you can always preserve photographs of these unwieldy and hard-to-store items)
  • documents containing sensitive and/or confidential personal information such as social security numbers, passport and visa numbers, personal financial information, course enrollment information, grades, GPA, etc. You are documenting the group, not individuals.
When in doubt, don’t throw it out! Hold onto the record and contact us for guidance.

About the images

Left - Caribbean Students' Association by Melinka Thompson. Scan 0942, 1996 Columbian; center - Glee Club going to a concert, 1950s. Scan 2601, Historical Photograph Collection; right - Riffle Club. Scan 5030, 1955 Columbian.

The Blue and White, May 1998

University Archives

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